Report from IPPC meeting in Yokohama, by Ulf Molau

13 Apr-2014 | Skrivet av klimat i Ulf Molau

Here are some reflections after having spent a week in Yokohama attending the day-and-night final plenary of the IPCC WG II 25-29 March 2014. I arrived in nice springtime weather and had a day off before negotiations started, so I settled in at the hotel and took a walk in the nearest surroundings at the seaside. No cherry trees in flower yet, but there were very few cherry trees around anyhow. The Pacifico Center in Yokohama is a modern futuristic conference and exhibition center and rather sterile. The conference area is fused with two gigantic 25-store hotels (mine included), with shopping malls, restaurants and subway station in the underground. My hotel room was very nice, with a balcony overlooking the harbor (and a typical 21th century Japanese water closet with an electronic command panel in the armrest where you adjust seat temperature and a number of other functions). After the plenary started, however, I didn’t see much of that fancy hotel room, except for a few hours of sleep in late night hours. We had nighttime negotiations the four last days, surviving on (rather good) coffee and small Japanese cookies and chocolate.

Swedish delegation

In my role as a lead author (Chapter 18, Detection and Attribution) I was seated in the author group in the plenary hall, and participated in contact groups and other discussions throughout the week. The Swedish governmental delegation was continuously engaged in the line-by-line (and often word-by-word) negotiations on the final text and accompanying tables and graphs of the Summary for Policymakers (SPM). Our hard-working delegation comprised two delegates from the new Swedish focal point for IPCC at SMHI, Lars Bärring and Lena Lindström, and Marianne Lilliesköld from the former focal point at Naturvårdsverket (SEPA). The general feeling in the plenary sessions was very positive and forward moving, and the slow pace of the negotiations was partly due to a large number of national delegations wanting to make last-minute additions to strengthen the report. In particular, several severely draught exposed African states wanted to add stronger emphasis on these impacts, especially states from the Sahel region. They argued based one their own experience, but unfortunately the scientific evidence in the literature is still too scanty to meet IPCC standards for observed impacts with high confidence in detection and attribution. In the end IPCC chair Rajendra Pachauri organized an informal contact group in the corridors with representatives of the African states and explained the IPCC requirements and urged them to bring this gap of knowledge up front in the continuing process. In parallel, there is no symbol for bush fires in southern Australia as many of them probably are initiated by criminal actions or just human misconduct, even though we are all convinced that Australia is more prone to bushfires than ever before due to increased frequency of drought spells. And the symbols for drought are there all right.


The world map on observed impacts of climate change (Fig. SPM.2A) was gaveled down in the plenary on Friday 28th and this map really appealed to media worldwide. Directly after the press conference it appeared in BBC and New York Times, and on April 1 it was in many Swedish newspapers (even Metro had it). Personally I was extremely pleased as this map came from our chapter 18, and was something I originally sketched at a lead author meeting. Yuka Otsuki Estrada, skilled layout person at the WG II Technical Support Unit, adopted my sketch and together with a smaller group of our chapter team we continued working on it over the last year. The version that now appears in the adopted SPM is the 20th version or so.

The end product was a strong SPM, with improved language without being particularly diluted. It was finally approved, together with the full report and all its 30 chapters, at about 4 am on Sunday morning the 30th of March, two hours before I had to catch a taxi to the airbus terminal. After being back home for some days, I’m still convinced that we got a very strong report – after four years of hard work. My general impressions of the WG II can be summarized as follows:

The time lag between the release of the WGI report and the two subsequent WGs’ assessments, has enabled the WG II and III author teams to thoroughly capitalize on the latest outcomes from the climatologists in WG I. The WG II report is also far more advanced than the AR4 version (2007) as it (1) provides a more detailed presentation of observed impacts with confidence levels for climate change attribution, (2) has a much stronger focus on social sciences (impacts on the human society), (3) goes far beyond previous assessment regarding identification of Key Risks and Reason for Concern, and (4) exhibits a much improved traceability to recent advances in the scientific literature.

Ulf Molau, lead author Chapter 18, Detection and Attribution

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